The Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking today announced that the 2014 Legacy Award will be presented to the landmark 1976 documentary, Harlan County, USA, Barbara Kopple’s groundbreaking chronicle of a historic Kentucky coal miner strike.

Kopple will accept the award on behalf of the film at the 7th annual Cinema Eye Honors ceremony on January 8, 2014, to be held at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York. This is the fifth year that Cinema Eye will present a Legacy Award, intended to honor classic films that inspire a new generation of filmmakers and embody the Cinema Eye mission: excellence in creative and artistic achievements in nonfiction films.

“Barbara has long been leading the way for all of us, not only in the quality, generosity and wisdom of her work but as a path breaking woman in what used to be largely a man’s field,” declared Cinema Eye Board Chair Andrea Meditch in announcing Harlan County, USA as this year’s Legacy Award recipient.

Continuing its partnership with Cinema Eye, the Hot Docs Film Festival will host a Cinema Eye Legacy Award screening of Harlan County, USA in Toronto during the 2014 edition of the festival, featuring a conversation with Barbara Kopple.

In October, Cinema Eye announced a list of 25 all-time influential nonfiction films, determined by the votes of more than 75 of this year’s eligible filmmakers. Harlan County, USA joins previous Legacy Award recipients Sherman’s March (awarded in 2010), Grey Gardens (2011), Titicut Follies (2012) and The War Room (2013) on that list of films.

In his original review of the film from 1977, Roger Ebert wrote that Harlan County, USA was “not just a document of a strike, but an affecting, unforgettable portrait of a community… The movie is a great American document, but it’s also entertaining. Kopple structures her material to provide tension, brief but vivid characterizations and dramatic confrontations (including one incredibly charged moment when the sheriff attempts to lead a caravan of scabs past the picket line). There are many gunshots in the film, and a death, and also many moments of simple warmth and laughter. The many union songs on the sound track provide a historical context, and also help Kopple achieve a fluid editing rhythm. And most of all there are the people in the film, those amazing people, so proud and self-reliant and brave.”

“It’s such an honor and thrill to be recognized with a Legacy Award from Cinema Eye and Hot Docs,” said filmmaker Barbara Kopple. “Cinema Eye is an invaluable event for the Documentary Community, a chance for us to come together and celebrate the important, entertaining and inspiring work of the past year, and our achievements. Harlan County, USA taught me about life and death and what it means to stand up for what you believe in. Thank you for recognizing this film’s strength and ongoing relevancy today. Having the opportunity to make documentary films, to work with such incredible people, and to tell the stories I believe in, is a reward in itself.”

“If Cinema Eye is like a family, then the Legacy Award is for the filmmaker-relative most likely to influence you by being smarter, more talented, compassionate and more vital than anyone else you know. So it’s no surprise that Barbara Kopple and her ever-relevant Harlan County, USA are our treasured honorees this year,” said Esther Robinson, Chair of the Cinema Eye Honors. “Barbara was the presenter of our very first Legacy award to Ross McElwee and Sherman’s March, and she’s been the mentor and hero to many many of us in the documentary community. Harlan County, USA is an important and essential work. And make no mistake, like all our Legacy Award winners, Barbara continues at the top of her game– encouraging and inspiring the rest of the doc family to keep up!”

“Hot Docs is excited to once again sponsor the Legacy Award and to continue our partnership with Cinema Eye” said Charlotte Cook, the Director of Programming for Hot Docs and Chair of the Cinema Eye Nominations Committee. “To be able to bring Barbara and her seminal film to Toronto is a real joy, and we are looking forward to an incredible screening at the 2014 festival.”

Harlan County, USA credits:
Directed by Barbara Kopple
Produced by Barbara Kopple
Edited by Nancy Baker and Mary Lampson
Principal Cinematographer Hart Perry
Sound Recordist Barbara Kopple
Associate Director Anne Lewis


About Barbara Kopple

Barbara Kopple is a two-time Academy Award winning filmmaker. A director and producer of narrative films and documentaries, her most recent project is the documentary Running from Crazy, which examines the personal journey of writer, model and actress Mariel Hemingway, the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, as she strives for a greater understanding of her complex family history. The film premiered earlier this year at Sundance and went on to screen at Tribeca and many other festivals.

Barbara produced and directed Harlan County, USA and American Dream, both winners of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. In 1991, Harlan County, USA was named to the National Film Registry by the Librarian of Congress and designated an American Film Classic. Harlan County, USA was recently restored and preserved by the Women’s Preservation Fund and the Academy Film Archive, and was featured as part of the Sundance Collection at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005. The Criterion Collection released a DVD of Harlan County, USA in 2006.

Barbara produced and directed Shut Up and Sing, which tells the story of the Dixie Chicks and their personal and creative response to the political fallout they faced after making comments critical of President Bush on the eve of the Iraq War; A Conversation with Gregory Peck, a film portrait of the career and family life of the actor; The Hamptons, a four-hour mini-series for ABC; My Generation, which examines the Woodstock legacy and Generation X; and Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson, for which she was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing. She directed the feature nonfiction film Wild Man Blues, about the European tour of Woody Allen and his New Orleans-style jazz band, for which she won the National Board of Review Award for Best Documentary. Barbara also produced the HBO documentary American Standoff, which chronicled an 18-month strike of the Teamsters Union against Overnite Transportation, and the A&E documentary Bearing Witness about female war correspondents working in Iraq. Barbara was a member of the Winter Soldier Collective, which created the film Winter Soldier.

Other recent projects include Fight To Live, which through the eyes of terminal patients and their advocates tells the story of the struggles many with rare and orphan diseases face in choosing their preferred therapies through the roadblocks imposed by the current FDA approvals process; A Force of Nature, which celebrates the life and work of journalist and philanthropist Ellen Ratner, following her from her home base in Washington, DC, to hurricane-ravaged Mississippi to war-torn South Sudan; Gun Fight, which explores the place of guns in US culture, profiling victims of gun violence and proponents on both sides of the gun debate; The House of Steinbrenner, part of ESPN’s Emmy nominated “30 for 30” series, which received a 2010 Peabody Award as well as the International Documentary Association Award for Best Continuing Series; and the Emmy-nominated, Woodstock: Now and Then, a look back at the legacy of the historic music festival, 40 years later. Well known for her work on US labor issues, Barbara directed Steamfitters Local Union 638 in 2007 for HBO’s acclaimed Addiction Series. The New York Times likened this short documentary to “crisp tonic with lime.” This program was awarded the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences Governor’s Award.

Other nonfiction films include The DC Sniper’s Wife, a documentary that takes a look at the life of Mildred Muhammad, ex-wife of the infamous DC sniper, John Allen Muhammad; High School Musical: The Music in You, a film following students in Fort Worth, Texas performing a stage adaptation of “High School Musical.”; No Nukes, a “rockumentary” shot during five days of concerts at Madison Square Garden and distributed by Warner Brothers; Defending Our Daughters, an investigation into women’s human rights issues in Bosnia, Pakistan and Egypt and winner of a Voices of Courage Award; With Liberty and Justice For All?, a short documentary made for the Alliance for Justice, which explores the issue of immigration law. Barbara also directed a series of specials for the Disney Channel, including Friends for Life: Living with AIDS, the first show about AIDS to air on that network. She also co-created, produced and directed I Married…, a series for VH1 about the spouses and families of rock stars.

Barbara directed the narrative feature Havoc, starring Anne Hathaway, Bijou Phillips and Freddy Rodriguez and written by Stephen Gaghan, about a group of wealthy teenagers coming of age and searching for an identity in Los Angeles. She also directs episodic television and commercial spots. Her television work includes episodes of OZ on HBO and Homicide, for which she won a DGA Award for Outstanding Direction. Barbara has directed spots for companies such as Sprint, Applebee’s, Dove, Intel, Target, The Tiger Woods Foundation, Pearl Vision and the Children’s Defense Fund.

Barbara has been awarded the Human Rights Watch Film Festival Irene Diamond Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Award, National Society of Film Critics Award, the SilverDocs/Charles Guggenheim Award, New York Women in Film & Television Muse Award, the Maya Deren Independent Film and Video Award, the Woodstock Film Festival Maverick Award, Women in Film & Video of Washington, DC Women of Vision Award, the White House Project’s EPIC Award, the International Documentary Association Career Achievement Award, the San Francisco Film Society’s Persistence of Vision Award, the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, Filmmakers Trophy & Audience Award, the Sarasota Film Festival Director’s Award, and the Nantucket Film Festival’s Special Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking Award. The Paley Center for Media has named Barbara a 2007 “She Made It Honoree.” She recently served her tenth year on the board of trustees for the American Film Institute and continues as an advisory board member for the American University Center for Social Media and Independent Feature Project’s Filmmaker Labs. In 2010, Barbara received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from American University. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Director’s Guild of America, New York Women in Film and Television’s Honorary Board, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and actively participates in organizations that address social issues and support independent filmmaking.